March 20, 2009
PM: Don’t forget our heritage

Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves is urging Vincentians to learn from Carib Chief Joseph Chatoyer’s struggle against the British and to “…turn setbacks into advances.”{{more}}

He did this as he delivered the feature address at the annual Chatoyer Wreath Laying Ceremony held at the Obelisk, at Dorsetshire Hill on Saturday, March 14th.

Prime Minister Gonsalves praised Chatoyer for his valiant fight against British and French colonial rule, despite being killed in battle on March 14th, 1795. Gonsalves, in what he described as “genocide”, described the horrendous treatment that the indigenous Indians suffered under the hands of the British, and beseeched the nation to understand and appreciate their (Caribs) plight.

Gonsalves pointed out that although St. Vincent and the Grenadines now has good relations with England and other European countries, and has been left a legacy of Common Law and system of order in Public Service; we must not let that cloud our vision to their ancestors’ atrocities. “We must keep up the demand for reparations for genocide and slavery! We must not allow that to throw smoke in our eyes and blind us from the totality of our history”.

With Chatoyer being declared a National Hero in 2002, the Prime Minister disclosed that discussions are being held to decide upon other national heroes. Thus far, those being considered are George Augustus McIntosh, Ebenezer Theodore Joshua and Robert Milton Cato. “They have made extraordinary and heroic contributions,” Gonsalves declared.

The Prime Minister acknowledged that the sweat and toil of our nation builders has enabled SVG to progress greatly since colonial days, but that there is much more to be done. “Our journey is yet to be complete!” He announced that in November 2009, the nation will go to the polls to decide upon a new referendum, which will “sever the umbilical cord” that ties us to Her Majesty the Queen. “We will have our own Head of State… one with whom we can immediately identify.”

Additionally, Gonsalves hinted at a series of other changes which will take place to “…deepen democracy and freedom in this land.”

The ceremony also heard remarks from Minister of Culture René Baptiste, Opposition Senator St. Clair Leacock, and solidarity messages from the Garifuna Heritage Foundation, National Youth Council and the World Garifuna Council.

There were performances from Naked Roots Drummers, Garifuna Dancers and the National Dance Company, with drumming provided by the C.W Prescod School Marching Band. (JSV)